At midnight recently, I got up and put on my late mother’s engagement ring.
It’s also my engagement ring; when I announced I was getting married once upon a time, it was immediately clear that a ring wasn’t in the budget, especially for a young woman who couldn’t care less about one. I am not a jewellery girl. My mother generously – and happily – hauled me off to get her ring adapted, as I sputtered that she really didn’t have to. At the jewellers, I morphed into the bride-to-be my mother wanted, and we changed around the setting, added a few diamonds, and laughed as my father smiled at the bill. We hadn’t had to size it. My mother and I have the same hands.
I’d never known Mom without that ring and her wedding band on her left hand. I’d spin the rings absentmindedly as a child, usually as I lay with my head in her lap as another migraine was digging its roots down into my brain. I’d watch her take them off as she kneaded dough, carefully perched on the window sill as the sun glinted off them. She never lost them. I would have lost them in a minute.
Mom wore a bracelet made from her father’s heavy gold watch chain. As it hit against her watch, this jingle formed the background music of my childhood. The rhythm is buried deeply in my subconscious, triggered by things like a scrap of paper with Mom’s handwriting on it. I still myself when it happens, scared to lose even a moment of these feelings that threaten to be lost to time.
Trying to remedy the insomnia I share with my father by reaching out to my mother, I hopped out of bed and pulled the ring from its nest in my drawer. I couldn’t recall when I’d taken it off; it hadn’t had anything to do with my long ago divorce, because this ring was always about my parent’s marriage, not my own. I’m sure I just worried about losing it, and knew it would be safer at home.
It’s delicate and beautiful, and looks out of place on my hand, I think. A friend laughed when I told her I had jammed it on my right hand – she thought I was signalling “never say never”, but even she knows I long ago said never again with a resounding thud. It’s tighter on my right hand; I’m less likely to lose it.
Back in bed, I spun the ring again, foreign yet familiar, wishing for sleep. A few minutes later, I got back up, and pulled out two gorgeous bracelets. A deep rich gold, they come from a country that doesn’t bother stamping the carat on them. If you didn’t know the provenance, you’d be forgiven for thinking they were fake. A gift from a father figure, they too had been relegated to the dark, too fine for me, I told myself, too feminine. I finally slept, bangles jangling lightly as I moved.
The fashion I admire is graceful and stylish. The fashion I settle on more resembles a third string extra on a spaghetti western; I have accessory issues. I pull earrings while brushing my hair, I lose rings inside gloves and I can’t do up necklaces. What I admire on others doesn’t work on me.
For several weeks now, I’ve realized the ring does work. It’s supposed to be there. And the bangles have injected their music into my life, and I realize they are a reminder, not a distraction.
Sometimes it’s easier to go forward with a little help from the past.